December 15, 2022 — Dr. Hiromasa Okayasu, director of WHO Western Pacific Region Division of Health and Environments and Populations pointed out during the Environmental and Occupational Health Forum that around the world the disease burden is shifting from communicable diseases (CD) to non-communicable diseases (NCD). The direct cost of NCDs is about 75 billion pesos, accounting for 30% of government health care expenditure, and there is a significant indirect cost due to the loss of workforce and reduced productivity.
In the same forum conducted by the College of Public Health on Nov. 24-25, he said that if we invest 30 billion dollars over the next 15 years in NCD prevention and management, we will receive about a 400 billion dollar return, and an estimated 200,000 premature deaths will be prevented in this country.
We need to rethink our current [safety and health] activities to incorporate the lessons learned from the pandemic
Dr. Okayasu discussed three ways in which companies and the government can promote a healthy work environment for their employees: first, the expanded concept of traditional occupational health; second, to highlight employee health as a sustainable investment rather than a cost; and third, to recognize and award corporate practices that promote employee health and well-being.
Mr. Manny Arjona, senior public quality health and safety inspection officer, Dubai Municipality, United Arab Emirates, shared his experiences and good practices in the UAE. He stated that part of his job is to ensure that all establishments, such as hotels, commercial malls, schools, commercial buildings, and public parks, follow federal health and safety laws. If they do not, they face hefty fines and penalties, as well as the closure of their operations.
Eng. Siong Hin Ho, president, International Association of Labor Inspection (IALI), Ministry of Manpower, Singapore, emphasized that public health authorities and labor inspectors need to collaborate to ensure the safety and health of workers and at the same time maintain the sustainability of businesses and jobs.
"We need to rethink our current [safety and health] activities to incorporate the lessons learned from the pandemic," Eng. Ho said emphasizing the importance of incorporating a pandemic preparedness plan as part of the OSH management system to better manage the next pandemic that may occur.
Executive Director Ma. Teresita Cucueco of the Department of Labor and Employment Occupational Safety and Health Center also emphasized that COVID has accelerated our understanding of the evolving world of work in terms of flexible work arrangements, work mediated by digital platforms, IT-based communication and work processes; as well as paved the way for the development of new guidelines and protocols. She added that we should also take into consideration and develop controls to mitigate the effects of climate change and mental health.